Dr Mike T Nelson

I'm an idiot

publishedabout 2 months ago
5 min read

…it’s true. Here is what happened.

As you know, I got back from the epic ISSN meeting this past Wed – Sun and it was back to “normal” (if anything I do is really “normal”) Monday. I was tired and after a bit more coffee than usual, I made it to the commercial gym where I do more upper body “bro work” on Mondays.

I was dragging in the session, but prolonged the rest periods between sets, cranked up some new Sepultura (Eloy’s drumming is so amazing and Derrick crushed the vocals) and dropped my plan on the first exercise of incline DB presses from set at 5 -7 reps with the 90s to the 80s for sets of 7.
Ditto for 1 arm rows and only worked up to a top set of 120 x 8, using straps once I was past the 100s.

I did less work on the accessory exercises, used the sauna to down regulated and walked home.

My sleep was terrible and my body was still thinking it was time to stay up to 1am again like I did most of the previous week.

Fast forward to Tuesday’s session in the Extreme Human Performance Center (aka my garage gym) where front squats felt fine, but dropped my goal again by a few reps and split them out over a few more top end sets.

Saxon pinch bar deadlifts were slow to warm up and in the end I came within 5 lbs of my PR weight, so I was happy with them.

Both Mon and Tues my low back had been feeling a bit tight and more sensation than usual.

After front squats on Tues I was feeling it a bit more again and figured it was just from not much movement later last week.

You can probably see what is coming. I moved on to some higher pull deadlifts (14 inch pick) and I was starting to feel much more fatigued.

Baaaaaw- it is probably just the heat.

Then on my 4th rep at only 275 lbs, I felt a kink in my back and the weight instantly went down to floor.

My first thought was ---ah sheeeeeeeeeet. Now I did it.

For better or worse, I’ve had all sorts of injuries over my almost 48 years on the planet.

Everything from a completely ripped out right shoulder –broomball accident, dislocated left shoulder – me vs tree on my mountain bike, pulled/ severely strained both adductors/ groin – being an idiot doing high incline sprints on the treadmill, pulled hamstring –hard impact off a small cliff drop snowboarding, strained both wrists – learning to windsurf, bruised / cracked ribs a few times – kiteboarding and snowboarding, completely spiraled right ankle- snowboarding, partial tore left knee LCL- go-kart incident, low back snafu – strongman comp.

You get the picture.

I have many reps with injury and knew not to catastrophize the incident.

I stood up and could move around ok. Most movements tested ok, no nerve pain, only back extension was weird.

I was 90% sure it was just a muscle strain in my lower erector spinae and /or my QL in my lower back.

I immediately shut down the session and went for a walk to just get some pain free movement and relax. My gait was off a bit although I could walk without pain – a great sign.

Looking back there are 2 big lessons here that you can apply to avoid my stupidity.

Lesson 1: Listen To Your Body - For Real

I know, I know, you here this all the time

“Yo Bro- you need to listen to your body.”

Listening is step 1 and actually doing something is where most fail.

On the deadlifts, rep 3 felt hard. Baw, it can’t be.

I cranked out 1 more rep.

I could feel my left back was a bit more owly.

Nah- I can do 1 more rep easily. This is about 100 lbs less than what I have typically done.

That was a bad idea.

It does not matter at that point in time if my max was 700 lbs, my body was saying “Hey, dumbass, I am not having this. Time to shut it down.”

I did not listen.

My body then yelled and shut me down for the day.

Some days you can still skate by.

Other days you can’t.

Listen, then act appropriately.

Lesson 2: Load Spike

Many lifters get injured in the gym when their total volumes goes up dramatically and there is research to support this idea (1-7).

Yes there is a bunch of debate about where the line is and what qualifies as “dramatically,” the take away here is going from zero to more than I did in the previous week was a no bueno idea.

While I did a similar session the previous Tuesday and then did all of nothing for lifting until that Monday.

I am not 100% sure this contributed since if I just listened to my body I would have been fine; but watching for load spikes is something to pay attention to in your programming.

With my own online M3 1-1 clients, I spend a bunch of time giving them programs to do while they are on vacation, even if it is just a day or two of bodyweight training. Something here is better than nothing.

Then once they are back I will still drop the volume down for a re-entry week to avoid them going from very very low volume to even moderate volume since the rate of change is high (aka load spike).

There you have 2 lessons from my latest adventures in the gym that you can apply today to stay healthy to lift another day.

Much love,

Dr Mike


1) Blanch P, Gabbett TJ. Has the athlete trained enough to return to play safely? The acute:chronic workload ratio permits clinicians to quantify a player's risk of subsequent injury. Br J Sports Med. 2016 Apr;50(8):471-5. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095445. Epub 2015 Dec 23. Erratum in: Br J Sports Med. 2019 Sep;53(18):e6. PMID: 26701923.

2) Gabbett T. J. (2020). The Training-Performance Puzzle: How Can the Past Inform Future Training Directions?. Journal of athletic training, 55(9), 874–884.

3) Gabbett TJ. Incidence, site, and nature of injuries in amateur rugby league over three consecutive seasons. Br J Sports Med. 2000 Apr;34(2):98-103. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.34.2.98. PMID: 10786864; PMCID: PMC1724194.

4) Gabbett TJ. How Much? How Fast? How Soon? Three Simple Concepts for Progressing Training Loads to Minimize Injury Risk and Enhance Performance. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020 Oct;50(10):570-573. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2020.9256. Epub 2019 Nov 15. PMID: 31726926.

5) Seshadri DR, Thom ML, Harlow ER, Gabbett TJ, Geletka BJ, Hsu JJ, Drummond CK, Phelan DM, Voos JE. Wearable Technology and Analytics as a Complementary Toolkit to Optimize Workload and to Reduce Injury Burden. Front Sports Act Living. 2021 Jan 21;2:630576. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2020.630576. PMID: 33554111; PMCID: PMC7859639.

6) Soligard T, Schwellnus M, Alonso JM, Bahr R, Clarsen B, Dijkstra HP, Gabbett T, Gleeson M, Hägglund M, Hutchinson MR, Janse van Rensburg C, Khan KM, Meeusen R, Orchard JW, Pluim BM, Raftery M, Budgett R, Engebretsen L. How much is too much? (Part 1) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of injury. Br J Sports Med. 2016 Sep;50(17):1030-41. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096581. PMID: 27535989.

7) Vanrenterghem J, Nedergaard NJ, Robinson MA, Drust B. Training Load Monitoring in Team Sports: A Novel Framework Separating Physiological and Biomechanical Load-Adaptation Pathways. Sports Med. 2017 Nov;47(11):2135-2142. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0714-2. PMID: 28283992.